Friday, March 4, 2011

A Tale Of Three Eggs: The Rotten, The Hard-boiled and the Addled.

The question of the week is what do Muammar Gaddafi, Julia Gillard and Peter `Typo' Gleeson have in common? On the evidence of the past seven days, they are all living in their own private Wonderlands and all are wrestling with their own private realities but all are taking their lead from Humpty Dumpty's linguistic dictum.

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - that's all."
Through the Looking Glass.

The rotten egg: On the international stage, Gaddafi Duck suddenly stopped being the mildly amusing, creepy cartoon character he has always presented to the world, and unmasked himself as the unhinged sociopath he has managed to semi-conceal over the years. He has always looked like a morning-after-the-night-before wasted  guest from the Rocky Horror Show but the extent of his lunacy was somewhat blurred and masked through language and translations. That is not to mention the fawning attention of other world leaders, particularly Britain's Tony Blair.

But when you start turning your army and air force against your own people, many of them unarmed, it's a bit of a giveaway that you are a very `special' person sorely in need of a corrective bullet. In what the world can only pray are his final days, Gaddafi Duck has morphed into Malice in Blunderland, mad as The Hatter but much less loveable.

The hard-boiled egg: You have to give it to Julia Gillard (and if you don't, she'll take it anyway), she's a tough nut. While she came a distant second to Premier Blight in the flood victim empathy stakes, the Mother Meerkat is now back in her element at the dispatch box during question time. One gets the impression that as a child, the PM liked pulling wings off flies, and watching her during question time, you just know that if Wingnut Abbot leans too far across the desk, she will reach out and pull his ears off. Slowly. And she is one of the few who do not wither under the death-star stare of Julie Bishop, a look that makes the recipient pray there are no sharp knives lying around.

But The Meerkat is having her own wrestle with reality, and is displaying a fine humpty-like disregard for the logic of language. Particularly on the issue of a carbon tax.

The Government line is that Wingnut's vow to repeal any such tax if he gets the top job is really, really norty, the mother of all scare campaigns, and … get this, snuffle, wheeze, gasp … `is creating massive uncertainty in the business community'. This is said with a straight(ish) face to disguise the intelligence-insulting aspect of such a claim.

Surely announcing the introduction of a massive and potentially ruinous tax without any detail at all  is an equally sphincter-tightening spectre which is hardly likely to have employers taking a carefree whistling stroll down to Centrelink to hire a few more staff because of a rosy, uncomplicated future. This is Mining Tax Mark 2 (and remember all the back pedalling that entailed) but a carbon tax, unlike the original mining tax, will be a direct financial kick in the slats to the mug punters … that's thee and me, chums. 

This from a government that couldn't even organise a fairly simple Grocery Watch program, fatally bungle a ceiling insulation scheme that burnt down houses and killed people and a government that paints its people as Techno Wizards of the Future with a dodgy and financially questionable National Broadband Network. Such is their technological wizardry they probably think Google is a dwarf in Lord of the Rings.

But what The Magpie doesn't get is the loopy logic of the Meerkat's grand carbon vision. She maintains that taxing carbon emitters will force them to look for alternative ways of doing whatever it is that they do, and emissions will die away. And what, pray tell, will be put in place to stop the polluters from merrily polluting on, paying the extra - and then passing that extra  along in the form of dearer products? Nothing, as far as The`Pie can see, and that means that the carbon tax will be paid by muggins… that also is thee, and me, folks.

Add to this that Australia, in order to stroke our leaders' egos on the world stage (remember Copenhagen?) will go it alone with this punitive tax. So local job providers will be forced out of business or out of the country because non-carbon-taxed overseas competitors will swamp the country with goods at prices that can't be matched locally. And we can't put tariffs on imports because of that other inspired piece of self-stroking grandstanding - free trade. This is pretty nutty stuff. Solutions can be found - but why weren't they explored, refined and streamlined BEFORE announcing a vague new tax law which by its very blurry outline has produced more uncertainty in the business community than any promise to repeal such legislation.

The addled egg: We have to come back to the local scene for this devoid ovoid. Down at the Townsville Daily Astonisher, Typo Gleeson, who has always had a bit of a tussle with English as she should be writ, is now rasslin' with `rithmetic. 

During the week, our man sent around a faux-cheery email to staff which proves the age-old adage that it is better to keep your mouth shut  and let people think you are a fool rather than open it and prove it. 

Typo starts out his missive by honking on about `good news on the circulation front',  then appears to go on and disprove exactly that by quoting what he says are official ABC audit figures comparing February last year and the new-look paper's launch month of February this year.

                                              Feb 2010              Feb 2011              Compar.           Percent.
                                                                                                +/-                    +/-
Monday to Friday                      26711               26955               +244                 +0.91%
Saturday                                   40506               40407               -99                -0.24%

Now, conventional media market wisdom has it that a big expensive relaunch printed on a big expensive new press should result in no less than a 7% spike in sales for the re-launch month, and momentum should carry on to bigger and better things. 

But you'll note above that the Saturday figure is actually worse than last year. And figures Typo wisely did not quote - the readership rather than circulation figures - really highlight his disastrous stewardship of this community's only major paper over the past 12 months. 

Readership figures, done in this case by independent auditors Roy Morgan, purport to determine how many people actually read the one of copy of the paper (the theory goes that in some households or workplaces some read about cars, others about property, some for jobs (thousands just for The Magpie heh heh heh). In 2009, Monday to Friday readership was an average 86,000 - in 2010, to last December, that had nosedived to an weekly average of 71.000.

If that's all you get for a new $52million press along with laughably sensationalised news content, the big boys in the Sydney boardroom must be experiencing some nervous buttock-clenching about now.  Typo himself says in his staff memo `these figures are about as good as it gets throughout the company right now, considering most mastheads are down between 2% and 10%'.

Then, curiously (oh, maybe not) Typo sticks the boot in to one of the paper's favourite darlings, the Cowboys, when he tells the troops `If the Cowboys have a good start to the season, I reckon we're looking at a positive quarterly audit, but that's like hoping Kristina Kenneally will win the NSW state election. Still, we live in hope'. Presumably that hope is a better result than the reported 7% slide in circulation in the last quarterly audit. And nice for the Cowboys to know the editorial management's real opinion of them.

Typo's unique approach to mathematics was also reflected in his recent foam-flecked rant about the need for a return to the divisional (or ward-based) local council elections, which his Labor overlords greatly favour because organised parties benefit greatly from head to head races. Funny he hasn't mentioned it yet (did The Magpie miss it?) but on Monday last, the Queensland government announced it does not support making the divisional system compulsory, and councils can decide for themselves.

But the best chortle in the government's paper on this was in the fine print.

You may remember Typo's blustering roar (a style he no doubt gets from a close legal chum) that a public meeting had been called to judge community attitudes to local council voting systems. And, the way Typo had it, with an overwhelming majority clearly demonstrating the electorate's fierce desire to return to wards, you'd think a mini-riot by a mob of angry citizens had taken place, with chairs hurled, the air filled with oaths and threats, and people clawing and fighting to get their votes in.

Well, here's what the official Labor government report had to say about that Labor-stacked get-together which so excited our editor, and why it doesn't agree with him.

This proposal would result in nine currently undivided Councils becoming divided unilaterally. The Townsville Local Government area is the only one of these Local Government areas in which the majority of community submissions to the LJSC inquiry were in favour of a change to divided status (i.e. 19 to 6 and 11 with no comment).
So, only 25 votes on the issue, for a population of 180,000, with just about every one of the 19 ayes coming from rounded-up Labor stalwarts. Riotous stuff indeed. Riotously funny, that is. Those 11 who didn't vote probably reflect the truth of the matter - people couldn't give a dog's toss either way, they don't really care, it's a non-issue to most - unless you're a Labor Party foot soldier, or the editor of the Daily Astonisher. Oops, sorry for the tautology.

Enough drivel, it is now again away to Poseurs' Bar, where perchance the chat will get around to the vagaries of language, particularly rhyming slang, and with luck, a demonstration rather explanation of `a Gaddafi Duck".


  1. magpie i think u may find that tsv council has done several community surveys in recent years on the wards issue and in all of them the vast majority of residents want to go to divisions

  2. The Artless DodgerMarch 6, 2011 at 10:13 AM

    The Magpie is in GoogleLand, Mary's column can be read on line, so why on earth would anyone want to buy the Astonisher? I can remember the paper when I first moved to Townsville, independent, very local, well researched and written and even carried extremely thoughtful arts reviews. Buy the Aus for national and international news and the Bully for local - but no longer do I buy either!

  3. I don't think the majority of residents could care less about divisions. Personally I prefer no divisions because then I can NOT vote for all of them. Remember its not who you vote for its who you don't vote for that gives the greatest pleasure!